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Fight or Flight when there is no danger

OverwhelmedIf you have ever suffered from a panic attack, you know all too well how debilitating it can feel. It can seem like your greatest enemy is your own mind. You feel powerless to stop the intermittent, and uncontrollable feelings of panic that can arise, seemingly out of nowhere, and at the worst times. It can feel like you’re suffocating, unable to swallow, you’re sweating, your pulse is racing, you feel shaky and dizzy, and powerless to make the feelings go away. What may be the worst feeling of all, is knowing that those who have never experienced a panic attack don’t understand what you are going through, and don’t understand why you can’t “just calm down,” or “breath,” or “tell yourself you’re fine.” It can be an isolating, and confining disorder. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you learn how to manage your symptoms, and retrain your mind to mitigate episodes of panic. If you or a loved one is suffering from panic disorder, learn about the causes and symptoms and the steps you can take to manage your condition.

Panic Attacks Defined
Panic attacks are symptoms of panic disorder, a condition that affects 2.4 million adults in the United States. They can happen without warning or reason. Everyone experiences stress in their lives, and for most people, their bodies react to those feelings with appropriate levels of anxiety. For someone living with panic attacks, however, when confronted with situations of non-life threatening stress, their bodies release high levels of the “fight or flight” hormones and escalated levels of adrenaline that are generally only used in cases of true imminent danger. The lack of any actual risk makes panic attacks even more terrifying, leaving the individual feeling out of control, and terrified to experience another random attack – a fear that in and of itself can bring on more feelings of panic.

Panic disorder impacts more women than men, and symptoms typically appear during teen years. While the causes are unknown, it is believed that panic disorder is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors, including family history, traumatic or stressful life events, substance abuse, and thought patterns.

Individuals having a panic attack describe the following symptoms:

  • Sudden feelings of fear and extreme nervousness for 10 minutes or more
  • Sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling like one is choking or unable to swallow
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Surreal feelings
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Feelings of insanity, or fear that one is going crazy

When to get Help
For those who begin suffering from regular panic attacks, they may start to avoid situations and triggers that could cause another episode. In some cases, sufferers refuse to leave their house, a condition known as agoraphobia, to try to avoid places and situations known to bring on feelings of panic. If panic attacks are occurring on a frequent basis (more than once per month), or are causing you to change your daily schedule or habits, or avoid situations or circumstances that may cause an attack, it’s time to get help. Remember that asking for help is a sign of bravery, not fear. Treatment options for panic disorder include prescription medication, and cognitive behavior therapy.

If you or a loved one is ready to seek help to overcome the fear of panic attacks, contact Horizon Health Services today at (716) 831-1800. We offer private counseling services and can help you recover from anxiety and/or panic disorder.